In 1993, a group of eight musicians in Cleveland, Ohio created what was initially just a side project: to blend extreme music with a vaudevillian stage show. The result was the heavy metal band called Mushroomhead: J Mann (screaming vocals), Jeffrey Nothing (melodic vocals), Skinny (percussion & band founder), Shmotz (keyboards), Pig Benis (bass), Gravy (guitar), Bronson (guitar) and Stitch (samples). They are known for their distinctive masks and makeup, as well as their unique, well-balanced, dual-singer sound.In the 1990’s, Mushroomhead locally released four independently produced albums and opened for many well-known heavy metal groups (Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative, Anthrax, etc.). In 2001, they released their national debut album called “XX”, which was a compilation of remixed songs from their first four independently produced albums. Now, Mushroomhead has released an entirely new album called “Xiii”. With 13 songs totaling just over 1 hour of music, it is some of the band’s best material yet recorded:I. “Kill Tomorrow” (3:44 min, 5+ stars). An intense, guitar-laden beginning that features the vocals of both Jeffrey Nothing & J Mann. One of my favorite songs on the album.II. “Sun Doesn’t Rise” (3:13 min, 5+ stars). Jeffrey Nothing starts this song and is quickly joined by Skinny and J Mann before the guitars, bass and samples create an intense collage. One of my favorite songs on the album.III. “Mother Machine Gun” (4:16 min, 4.5 stars). A soft piano-driven beginning gives way to very aggressive guitar and J Mann’s vocals before being joined by Jeffrey Nothing. The intensity fades at the end for the piano and samples.IV. “Nowhere To Go” (3:42 min, 5+ stars). One of my other favorite songs on the album, which features Jeffrey Nothing’s emotional vocals accompanied by J Mann.V. “Becoming Cold (216)” (4:25 min, 4 stars). Intense & fast, guitar & percussion driven song with the vocals of Jeffrey Nothing & J Mann riding on top.VI. “One More Day” (3:36 min, 4.5 stars). A slower song that begins with piano accompanied by intense percussion blasts and featuring a duet by Jeffery Nothing & J Mann, who are later accompanied by a female studio chorus. The guitar & bass come and go.VII. “The Dream Is Over” (3:15 min, 5 stars). An intense & heavy song featuring percussion, guitar, bass & J Mann’s screaming vocals. (No Jeffrey Nothing vocals on this song.)VIII. “The War Inside” (2:58 min, 5 stars). Very aggressive percussion drive this fast song with some intense vocals from Jeffrey Nothing and accompanied by J Mann’s screaming vocals for the choruses.IX. “Almost Gone” (4:01 min, 4.5 stars). A revving car engine starts this slightly slower, retro, guitar-driven song with vocals from both Jeffrey Nothing & J Mann.X. “Eternal” (3:12 min, 5 stars). A more death-metal sounding song with tons of double-drumming, intense bass and J Mann’s screaming vocals, giving way to more melodic sections with Jeffery Nothing’s vocals.XI. “Our Own Way” (3:40 min, 5 stars). A ballad-like instrumental beginning that features Jeffrey Nothing’s melodic vocals, later joined by J Mann’s screaming vocals.XII. “Destroy The World Around Me” (8:21 min, 5 stars). A melodic, electronic, instrumental beginning giving way to J Mann’s intense vocals accompanied by aggressive guitar & bass. The melodic beginning returns then returns with Jeffrey Nothing’s vocals. Neither a fast nor slow song, but very intense.XIII. “Thirteen” (12:04 min, 4.5 stars). An electronic, melodic introduction with the addition of crackling noises reminiscent of listening to an often-played LP. The melody briefly stops leaving only the crackling noises, then returns with the addition of a child’s sounds. This goes on for 5 minutes, then only crackling is heard for about 30 seconds before the band returns with an updated cover of Seal’s song “Crazy” from his 1991 self-titled album debut that includes many unique Mushroomhead additions.Overall, I rate Mushroomhead’s album “Xiii” with 5 out of 5 stars and is probably one of the best heavy metal albums released so far in 2003. If you love unique metal sound, I highly recommend this album.